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Good Morning!

Longwood Gardens.  February, 2013.  Photo by joanneleon.

A Better Place | Playing For Change

News and Opinion

Dean Baker

The Sequester Is President Obama's Fault

We know the Republicans love the Job Creators and President Obama has gone out of his way to show his love also. But in the real world, investment in equipment and software has never been much above its current share of GDP except in the days of the dot.com bubble. This means that unless we drug investors so that they are willing to throw hundreds of billions of dollars into the stock of worthless companies, we are unlikely to see any substantial rise in investment.
Now the sequester comes along, throwing more people out of work, worsening the quality of a wide range of government services and denying hundreds of thousands of people benefits they need. Yes, this is really stupid policy and the Republicans deserve a huge amount of blame in this picture.

But it was President Obama who decided to play deficit reduction games rather than being truthful about the state of the economy. There was no reason to expect better from the Republicans in Congress, we had reason to hope that President Obama would act responsibly.

Banned TED Talk: Nick Hanauer "Rich people don't create jobs"

Yes, where is the uprising? It's out there but not big or loud enough for Scheer's taste.  He might be forgetting that they were evicted, arrested, beat up, and framed up as terrorists, but that's beside the point :) The bigger point still is, where is the uprising?  I say that people are as confused as all hell about what's going on, it's still winter, we're still a bit in the aftermath of the election, and other reasons... and that movements don't rise up and organize immediately in response to headlines, etc.  On the other hand, you never know which event will be the next spark, but usually it's not a headline, it's more personal.  Watching Occupy Sandy, it's clear that Occupy can reconstitute itself, on a dime, if needed. The network is still in place.  The movement is still doing good work, but more specific work, important to the individuals' lives that they work with, and important wonkish work suing the SEC et al. What will be the next spark?  What Scheer is saying is true.  Everything that Occupy was protesting is out there in stark relief right now.  Very well worth reading the rest of this article.  He has some really good specific examples and it is a righteous article.
Whiny Billionaires in Need of Sequestration

Where is the Occupy movement now that the depravity of the super rich is on full display?

The suddenly increased national debt is primarily the result of a deep recession caused by the top bankers and hedge fund hustlers of Wall Street, saved from their folly by massive and costly federal intervention. The result has been a season of obscene profit for them, while the rest of the nation has floundered. But instead of making the rich pay, ordinary citizens will be visited with job furloughs and a savaging of public services that often are lifesaving.

Consider two stories this week that make Karl Marx look prescient: one, in The Wall Street Journal, concerns the payout of $1 billion in bonuses to nine private equity executives; the other, under a New York Times headline, states that the jobless recovery has been a boondoggle for corporate profits. “Recovery in U.S. Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs,” the headline reads, by way of explaining why the stock market is nearing its unprecedented high while the unemployment picture remains so dismally bleak.

But whenever a politician dares to hold those “fat cats” accountable, as Barack Obama once did, he or she is branded by apologists for the super rich as a socialist engaging in class warfare. [...]

Yes, really.  While the billionaires and banksters whine... while the president plays tricks with people's lives to force Democrats to vote to cut Social Security, which has no crisis for decades and maybe never... the homeless numbers are increasing specifically.  I can think of a dozen reasons for this, all of them profoundly unfair and things we on the left, those who have been willing to look at reality straight in the eye, have been protesting against for years, warning and knowing that this would happen.

This is austerity. This is corrupt bankers who are bailed out by the govt instead of their victims being bailed out.  This is veterans of old wars and new endless wars not getting the mental health care that they need, being ruined by imperialist wars.  This is the horrific state of the mental health care system and the drug and alcohol addiction treatment system.  This is addiction exacerbated by despair.  This is families being thrown out of their homes while obscenely wealthy investment firms buy up their foreclosed properties that sit empty for ages.  

This is the product of greed and lack of compassion and a nation that has been off course for thirty years, with a president and Congress taking it even further off course in a hellish downward spiral for the vast majority while the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful.  And in the midst of this, our glorified leaders want more sacrifice, too corrupt to see or recognize what is right in their faces, obsessed with their own power and glory.  To make it all the more ironic, this article is from the Wall Street Journal.  Gotta love that.  Not.

New York City Leads Jump in Homeless

An average of more than 50,000 people slept each night in New York City's homeless shelters for the first time in January, a record that underscores an unsettling national trend: a rising number of families without permanent housing.

Families have become a larger share of the nation's homeless population, growing 1.4% from 2011 to 2012, after their numbers fell as the economy emerged from recession.

What have we been saying for years? The stock market is no indicator of the economic health of this nation and its people.  That wealth inequality video quoted a statistic about what percentage of Americans are invested.  Some negligible number. Yet we are trained like seals to panic when it falls, to feel more secure when it rises.  Some banks are so big that they can probably manipulate it at will with their trading accounts.  In concert, they almost certainly could.
Today's Most Insignificant Headline: Dow Hits All-Time High
Billionaires richer, stock market soars, corporate profits up... so why all the austerity for the rest of us?

Where's the Occupy movement when you need it?

That's the question columnist Robert Scheer asked Tuesday amid abounding evidence that Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% are living up boom times while the rest of the U.S. continues to languish in the clutches of a recession that began nearly five years ago.

On Tuesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high. As the Associated Press reports, "The [stock index] jumped from the opening bell, climbed as much as 158 points early and reached 14,286, breaking through its previous record high set in October 2007."

But as the Guardian's U.S. Finance Editor Heidi Moore urged readers to remember: "the stock market is not the economy." And even if it was, she says, the Dow Jones has its "own interest at heart," not the general public's. The Dow, she explains:

[is] that narcissist who's always preening and trying to look powerful when in fact it barely deserves an invitation to the party.

Most Americans know that the Dow is composed of a basket of 30 industrial stocks that are largely impervious to the struggles of ordinary Americans. If you separated these stocks, their rise would not be exciting. It's hard to picture a family driving back from the food bank – poverty is also at all-time highs in America, by the way – chanting "three cheers for Alcoa! Let's hear it for Caterpillar!" Americans, no matter how patriotic, don't pull out the pom-poms when it's a good quarter for Cisco. We just wait quietly for the riches to trickle down, for the companies to start hiring and for the rest of us to feel rich.

But don't hold your breath, Moore says. With corporations hoarding as much as $1.4 trillion in cash assets and new evidence showing that corporate profits are careening upward without the need to hire US workers, the disparity between rich and poor is only likely to grow.
Note the part about "without the need to hire US workers".  The immigration reform proposal calls for huge increases in H1B visa workers which greedy corporations just love. Those numbers are still small enough not to have a huge overall effect on the millions of jobs deficit.  But it's indicative of the mindset of this government that serves the 1%.   We don't even know how many jobs have been lost to outsourcing and offshoring. It's in the millions. Do we even know how many jobs were lost because of unfair trade agreements. Millions.  How many more will be lost with Obama's wide sweeping, bigger than all the rest, Pacific Trade deal that he won't even share the details of in the secrecy that he loves so much?  Any chance that it won't cost even more millions of jobs?

How can this country possibly survive that, along with the austerity?  Are they out of their minds?  Are we out of our minds for putting up with it?  I would argue in a large sense, yes. Not enough of us are awake.  Our media heavily influenced by the state and chock full of propaganda has confused the hell out of people and has given them many ways to retreat.  But that won't last forever. There will be sparks.  I'm probably on some watch list for dissent and joining things like the Occupy movement.  For the watchers -- I am talking about peaceful protest and peaceful revolution, and wake up your freaking self and focus on the real criminals, please, and move along.  You're one job loss away from joining the rest of the people struggling.  We are the 99% and so are you, as we of the Occupy movement are fond of reminding.  

If you doubt that, watch this video on wealth inequality.  It will only take six minutes of your time.  It's making its way around the nation and the world now.  Last week it only had 48,000 views.  Now it has 2.5 million.  We at dkos and our friends and families and their friends and families helped to make that happen.

Below is a huge piece in the Washington Monthly that has been highly recommended on the Sam Seder program (video for part 1 of which is below). I haven't finished reading it yet but I wanted to share it with you.

He Who Makes the Rules
Barack Obama’s biggest second-term challenge isn’t guns or immigration. It’s saving his biggest first-term achievements, like the Dodd-Frank law, from being dismembered by lobbyists and conservative jurists in the shadowy, Byzantine “rule-making” process.

In late 2010, Bart Chilton, one of three Democratic commissioners at the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), walked into an upper-floor suite of an executive office building to meet with four top muckety-mucks at one of the biggest financial institutions in the world.

The Financial Industry Assault on Wall St. Reform (w/ Haley Sweetland Edwards) 1/3

CIA's timing could not have been worse for Zero Dark Thirty. Chickens are coming home to roost, though our govt. will probably blow this off.  I read an article recently about the effect of torture in films and tv on actual interrogators and how when they were under pressure, told to get some information out of detainees in 30 minutes, some of them resorted to techniques they had seen in movies or on the show "24".  By the way, guess what Annapurna Pictures next subject is?  Megan Ellis, daughter of Larry Ellis (Oracle) did one CIA propaganda piece. Why not another?  Next subject is Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
Time for a Reckoning': UN Investigator says US/UK Must Account for Torture, Human Rights Violation
'Words are not enough. Platitudinous repetition of statements affirming opposition to torture ring hollow,' says Ben Emmerson'

Perpetrators and architects of such programs should be held accountable and face justice, he declared in both an official report and in a speech delivered Monday.
Prefacing the report in Geneva on Monday, Emmerson criticized "a policy of de facto immunity for public officials who engaged in acts of torture, rendition and secret detention, and their superiors and political masters who authorized these acts."

Meanwhile, on (or near) the home front...
Couple stole cruisers, led police on interstate chase

As helicopters from television news stations followed overhead, New Jersey state police joined the chase, then Philadelphia police, until the couple crashed the car at the corner of Seventh and Norris Streets in North Philadelphia.

As police were arresting Bills, the driver, Sykes managed to climb into a second cruiser and take off with it, Ross said. Officers are generally supposed to take the keys out of the ignition of their cruisers when they stop, Ross said, but the officers were on high alert due to the report of an officer down in New Jersey, and their focus was on apprehending Bills as quickly and safely as possible.

Sykes took police on another chase through the streets of Philadelphia, Ross said, hitting three cars and a truck, and nearly striking a pedestrian who had to dive out of the way. The car stopped on the 1100 block of Hope Street, just before 10:30 a.m., leaking fluid, Ross said, and Sykes was arrested.

Artist Prepares To Light Up San Francisco's Bay Bridge Like Never Before

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge "is the Rodney Dangerfield of bridges," as our friends at KQED say. While the Golden Gate gets respect and tourists, the Bay Bridge simply does its job. But the humble span will shine Tuesday, thanks to 25,000 light-emitting diodes.

The white lights will form patterns that continuously morph and move across the bridge's span, or slide up or down its supports. The Bay Lights project is the work of artist Leo Villareal, who uses diodes like pixels to create scenes of mesmerizing fluidity.

Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest

Evening Blues
Eric Holder: President may legally kill Americans on American Soil
Former DEA chiefs, working for a lobbying group, pressure DOJ
Profits high, job growth low, here's why
Hugo Chávez: An Appreciation
Insisting transgender students be put at risk
Transocean: had BP not lied, oil spill could have been ONE THIRD the size
Fracking the Energy Department

4 Non Blondes - What's Up
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